4 Questions with Telguard’s Senior Director of Technical Services, Daniel Rosales
ESA interviewed Telguard’s Senior Director of Technical Services, Daniel Rosales to discuss everything about being the first to market with a complete lineup of All American-made, All 5G LTE-M Fire Alarm Communicators, what that means for the industry and the impact it will have on upcoming technologies. We also talked about POTS and where that’s all headed, and what it means for security dealers and integrators.
What exactly is LTE-M?
LTE-M is a new category of cellular technology that caters to the IoT world. Nowadays, most people carry cell phones, and it’s standard practice to change them every year or two, so we are constantly facing the opportunity to buy the latest and greatest. This only happens because the devices continue to improve and make it enticing for consumers to invest in upgrades. Along with device improvement, the technology and service that supports it, from providers like AT&T and Verizon, also needs to evolve.
As an iPhone or Android user, what do you really want out of the technology these carriers provide? What do you really care about? You want better signal, of course, but you want more features, higher speed, more bandwidth, etc. You want to be able to stream things without lag and get higher quality videos without much loading time. Basically, you want a technology that amplifies what your phone is capable of. And as consumer devices continue to evolve, the technology evolves to match those specific requirements.
That doesn’t really work for our industry, because our requirements are quite different. So, what does the M in LTE-M/CAT-M/M1 stands for? It stands for Machine-to-Machine.
The concept of machine-to-machine devices is that of devices that connect and transfer some sort of information without the manual assistance of humans, and this is exactly what communicators like Telguard do.
LTE-M is essentially a technology that takes cellular connectivity and applies it the needs of machine-to-machine devices. And what exactly are those needs? Let’s think about what we care about the most when it comes to a cellular communicator. We want better signal. Alarm messages are very small so we don’t need more bandwidth.
Our devices do not require human interaction to operate, once installed they just work as intended without the need for button-pushing or human intervention to send messages, so we want stability, and most importantly, longevity. And this is what LTE-M provides. It’s a technology that focuses on using low frequencies for better in-building penetration, requires a certain level of reliability, and most importantly, longevity. Perhaps the biggest aspect concerning longevity is the fact that the technology is intended to continue working through the transition out of LTE into the next technology.
Is it better than LTE and is it 5G?
I guess one could say that the wireless industry has sort of a bad reputation in using terminology that could appear deceiving. There was a point in time when the term “4G” was used by some carriers to market 3G technology that was enhanced to support faster speeds.
While conceptually a good marketing idea at the time, it really muddied the waters for us in the industry while prepping for the 3G sunset. In the US, a true 4G technology is LTE, and it is the most widely available and used technology. 5G technology is what AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are continuing to develop and deploy. While it’s already available, there are limitations as far as coverage that force devices to still rely on LTE networks.
When you get on your 5G phone, you don’t always see the 5G network symbol. While driving for example, you see the LTE indicator on your phone, but when you get to a metro area, you see the 5G kick in. So is LTE-M better than LTE? Better than 5G? The truth is that it is a different technology that’s separate but related to both. Currently, CAT-M has virtually the same coverage that LTE has for networks like Verizon and AT&T. Using the LTE footprint allows us to be everywhere that LTE is in, which at this point has better coverage than 5G. The beauty of LTE-M is that when LTE will inevitably phase out, LTE-M will be ready to transition through that change.
The advantages of IP over POTS are obvious, but why is it more important in 2022 to continue the transition into IP delivery methods?
Terms like POTS and PSTN have been around for many years. The terms are basically interchangeable and are just ways to reference what we know as phone connections: the standard phone connections that you may have used in the past, or that your mom or grandma used.
Chances are most people with whom we interact don’t have an old-fashioned phone, it’s just not as common anymore, right? Recent research tells us that 80% of homes are wireless today, and that’s up 245% since the 2009 study. You buy a house, you rent an apartment, you don’t really call to have a phone connection setup. So one of the things that we’ve been battling, for over a decade, is the fact that POTS is supposed to be going away, but our industry keeps hanging on to it.
And in the Commercial Fire space, while commercial buildings and facilities aren’t at that 80% level, more and more commercial installations are moving to wireless for their fire alarm systems, and more and more AHJs are accepting the NFPA guidelines around the use of cellular. The technology is more reliable than landlines, and the facility manager saves thousands every year by replacing those two dedicated landlines they pay for every month.
The government has also been involved in regulating the transition from POTS, and some of that impact will start to be felt in 2022. One particular FCC Order that comes to mind enables intermediary carriers to not be price-capped starting in August of 2022. This means that the expense of maintaining some of these phone lines will eventually make its way to the consumer as an increased premium.
Ultimately, with price increases, comes the opportunity to replace those phone lines, the question is will they be replaced with a system that the industry can manage and benefit from (RMR), or will it be replaced with unregulated replacement devices that look to mimic phone lines but are not as reliable when it comes to alarm message communications. What an end user, dealer, and central station cares most about in a security system, fire or intrusion, is reliability – relying on the communicator to transmit signals from the panel to the central station.
From a manufacturer’s device hardware and signal transmission service perspective, reliability is priority one.
What/when is the next cellular sunset?
December 31st of this year will be the next sunset. This is when Verizon will officially retire its CDMA network. Unlike with AT&T’s sunset that we went through earlier in the year, we expect this sunset event to leave little wiggle room. It’s important to be ready and make sure that all Verizon CDMA units, regardless of manufacturer, are changed out by that date as we expect no extensions on that date.
And, as for Telguard’s lineup of commercial fire alarm communicators:
Recently, Telguard announced being the first to market with an All-5G LTE-M Fire Communicator lineup that’s made in the USA, with all models available now at distributors throughout the US and Canada.
“We foresaw the need for a period of accelerated innovation and have really delivered for our dealers. Telguard’s fire communicator lineup has expanded greatly in the last 18 months – we’re not just the TG-7FS anymore”, said George Brody, President, Telguard.
“And we’ve eliminated the supply chain bottlenecks by making every model we sell in the USA, using the latest 5G LTE-M technology, and all models shipping from stock. Whether sole path, dual path internet/cellular, primary or backup, now there’s a universal, UL/ULC Listed Telguard fire communicator that will fit the needs of virtually any application and will be approved by the toughest AHJ, including models enabled with the Honeywell CLSS platform.”